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Your Business

News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States. New.

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Us 5, Angela 2, Jon Haber 2, Dell 2, J.j. Ramberg 2, Mascara 2, California 2, Bpa 1, Homeowner 1, Lowe 1, John Crowley 1, Gaving 1, Or Retweet 1, John 1, Frances 1, Aol 1, Maggie 1, New York City 1, Vegan 1, Sacramento 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues facing  
   small business in the United States. New.  

    July 24, 2011
    4:30 - 5:00am PDT  

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>> they thought outside of the box. how reinvention and innovation can take your business to the next level. that's coming up next on "your business."
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hi, there everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg where we give you tips and advice how to. he your business grow. we focus on producing on new products but this week we meet two entrepreneurs who aren't doing that. they figured out how to stream line the delivery of some products out there. as a result they just might change the entire bathroom remodeling industry. >> about three years ago i undertook a fairly massive remodeling project. >> i had been through the terror and frustration of doing a couple of bathrooms. >> with german faucet, american bathtub, italian tile and here we are sitting there trying how
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to figure out how to put these pieces together that are not standardized. >> i was walking down the street with a sink with my life to match it up with the tile. >> i said there has to be a more efficient way to put a bathroom together than this. >> there had to be a better way. >> those words there had to be a better way launched a new business for these two california based entrepreneurs. >> we want to schedule all of these groups. >> john crowley a construction systems engineer and bill a former wall street banker are the founders of bath simple. >> i was thinking, john, why don't we turn these over. >> as john and bill saw it the problem wasn't with the available products out there, the problem was the inefficient process for gathering those products and getting them to consumers. >> the homeowner typically has
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to travel to many different locations. they go to the lighting store. they go to the tile store. they go the plumbing supply store. they go the building material store to pick out all these parts and pieces which they never get to to see all in one place. >> go a lowe's or home depot, one of the big box stores, good luck. you're on your own. >> how did these two enter the seemingly saturated market of a complex, well established industry like bathroom remodeling. >> no one approached it from a system perspective. sometimes it takes someone from outside the industry to reinvent the industry. >> as outsiders they asked themselves how they could stream line a process where most of the suppliers and manufacturers don't know each other and almost never communicate. >> no one delivers your bathroom in a box. that's what we do. >> that's how they hit on bath in the box concept. they treated the whole bathroom
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as a single product rather than a collection of various widgets. by bundling everything together they streamlined the supply chain from the design sketch to a finished bathroom. >> the idea is to be able to think through in advance all the parts that go into that eco system. >> that's nice. all in there? >> vanity, tubs. >> a box with my whole bathroom in it. >> that homeowner is renovating her bathroom and everything her contractor needs for the job from the new bathtub and the toilet right down to the tiniest nails and screws are inside that box. >> when you arrive at the job site all the elements are on the job site. which is, by far the most efficient way. >> for building contractor,
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owner of the bay area canyon construction, that means nothing is missing, and, therefore, no lost time and no expensive delays. >> it definitely results in a savings in the cost. time is money in contracting. >> what we're talking about is mass customization and i would say what we're doing in the bathroom is not dissimilar from what dell does with pcs. dell basically let's you define your pc configuration, and they make it. they have parts on the shelf. they aaggragate and ship i want to you within a week. >> they to see it as an alternate distribution channel. >> the manufacturers to see bath simple as a way to open up a whole new channel for how they sell their product. they are stuck in the home
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depot-lowe's channel which is a big channel but a low margin -- dangerous to have one big customer. we sell to the contractors out there and they get it very quickly. >> consumers too are taking notice. the online design software makes the selection process faster and easier than the traditional chore of running from store to store. >> i have three middle school kids and i don't have the time. just this whole idea intrigued me. that's how i got started. >> from the manufacturers to the contractors to the consumer to the retail chains they to see this as a new way of doing something that's been done for a long time the old way. >> rethinking and re-inventing an approach to a business can make you stand out from the crowd. angela is co-founder of savor
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the success.com. founder and ceo of oh aroma. and rod is the own of aol small business. great to to see both of you. this was particularly interesting to me because my mother and brother start ad company called job track, which took an try that was completely inefficient which was job listing for colleges for company. it wasn't a glamorous business. they sold it to monster eventually and the same with bathroom in a box. simplifying an industry that seems like you're in the market to start a business. it might be a smart thing to just look at things that you deal with when you're frustrated. >> bathroom in a box is catchy as well. my only concern is and i don't
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know if it was fully addressed what kind of choice do you have. when you go to the lighting district here in new york city you got thousands and thousands of light fix tuesday to choose from. there's some beauty in that. how much choice is given? >> i also thought what's to stop from home depot or lowe's. >> you saw several times in the package they referenced home depot and lowe's. i share your concern about choice. having everything in one place you won't have the variety. to your original point you said something very interesting in the package that they said. there had to be a better way. there's so many tries still out there. if you're out there thinking of a business idea this is what it come down to. just because something has been done that way forever isn't the best way to do it. >> i love that they added this website component because i think that's when you can pick
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and choose your different tile, colors, faucets. that's brilliant. >> i related to that. i have no time. >> i'm doing some homicide improvement this week and it's great. >> thank you. judd has been in the business of branding and marketing advertising for more than 20 years. he saw firsthand the inefficiencies of his industry. so when he started his own agency he set out to run a small business based on need not want. he millirems that all small business owners do the same. he says don't accept things at face value and question everything, including the fancy offices, unreasonable deadlines and difficult personalities.
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>> the recession obviously had a really big impact on a lot of people's lives. it's been a really big struggle. it's really important to find time to go back to basics. what are your in business for. what's your passion. how do you get back to that? we just don't do it. when you do it you uncover things, it doesn't make any sense. what is an office for? what does it mean? how do you use it to your mutual advantage? for the operations of my company and for the service of my clients. we do this because these are the thing that we think our clients value. they do. but one of the first things we looked at is why. because our clients don't really come to our offices very often, we go to theirs. sign the end we're assuming pretty large overhead for a two hour meeting that we would like our clients to pay for all year. i wondered if you ask your clients do they want to pay for
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that? what would they say? an idea is something that causes inspiration, nourishment. we're so reluctant to change. i've had instances where, i know it's in four weeks, it's not perfect. i don't want to waste your time. i've never had a client get mad about that. conversely you write an idea and you hit it. we're reluctant to show to it you earlier. part of the reason i was excited about starting a company is that i was able right or wrong to make decisions that shaped how we operated. one of the things that bothered me with having work with so many places was seeing the way we indulged [bleep] i don't think we should coddle or indulge these people. there's no one in my company who
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can [ bleep ] and if you're a client no matter how much money you have i won't work with you. i don't want you to win. and that's all right. because that's the freedom and fun of having your own business. you get to make these decisions. bad business perhaps but business on my terms and that's absolutely fine because this is what it's all about. acsmall business is a decision. a decision that my business, my terms. >> and there's no question that we'll have more good information to help you run your small business, rod and angela will answer viewer e-mail how to compete against foreign companies. everybody has been itching on this week's elevator product. a yummy vegetable meal in a jar. this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo.
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i'm jon haber of alto music. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple our floor space. how can the plum card's trade terms get your business booming? booming is putting more music in more people's hands. from our very informal focus group that happened when we put our elevator pitch in the kitchen, we know there's interest in this cuisine. but as we know from the show a good product doesn't always make for a good business. let's to see how our pitcher does in selling her idea for a company to our panel.
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>> good morning. >> good morning. how are you? >> quite well. >> this is conscious cuisine and first and only product on the market that embraces the challenges of the prepared food industry. it's vegan, gluten free. it's in a bpa free jar that you can heat the product in and then re-use afterwards. it's meant to be beautiful. >> we got to try this. >> meant to be beautiful, flavorful food that's also socially responsible. i'm looking for $300,000 to be divided between start up costs, marketing and promotion. >> maggie, it's always a good idea to bring food for our panel. >> especially this early in the morning. >> but, you know, as i said everybody here loves the taste of it. what do you guys think of the pitch in the product. >> it's really good. >> free food always helps. >> thought you did a great job.
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what i want is a little bit more statistics. more forecast of what your sales could be. what you got in the pipeline. if you're asking for the money i want to know what you've got going on to ensure that this could be a company that works not just a good product. >> i dpragree. it's a question of winning us over. we want more specifics. if we will invest our money it needs be more than tasty but definitely of interest. >> it's really good. >> i'm a devout cardiovar. >> you said to me before the show i have these big companies waiting for the product. >> lead with that. >> i was the in house chef for another company and i worked for a top grocer so i have the contabts. >> you have a great business card on the apron. >> good luck. thank you for feeding the panel.
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and if any of you out there have a product or a service and you want feedback from our elevator pitch panel, just send us an e-mail. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. include a short summary what your company does, how much money you want to raise and what you intend to do that money. you never know. somebody may be interested in helping you. many small businesses use g-mail as their e-mail system but are you getting everything you can out of this google product. here are five apps and plug ins that will take your g-mail experience to the next level. rapportive puts the names and faces of people who e-mail you. it links your g-mail social media so you can have updated information. with boomerang write an e-mail
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now and schedule it to be sent at the perfect time. course at theously let's your contacts to see how many emails you're sorting through. if you use g-mail from outside of the u.s., hot spot shield will come in handy. the free app lets you log into g-mail that blocks with it a fire wall. when you download the active inbox, organize emails by project so your g-mail inbox never gets out of control. it is time now to answer some of your business questions, angela and rod are with us once again. the first one is from frances the owner of a jewelry business. she asks how can i market my jewelry when there's so many designers and retailers importing jewelry from other countries. how do i compete with them? >> never on price. i'm friends with two sisters who run a great brand.
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they have been on the show. they are so good at telling their story behind the brand. not just in jewelry but for any consumer brand. consumers have so many choice and they want to align with brand that they like, hat they share in the story. whether it's on twitter, sharing lit juicy details about the life of the designer, that kind of thing gets designer excited about the brand. >> right. i think there are a couple of things she can do. she really needs to find a niche. she can't be all things torch. the other thing is stepping out as a personality behind the brand. i had to do that with my skin care brand. what i had to do was step out from behind the curtain and really brand myself with my company and i think that is what can help. >> you're outgoing. you like talking to people. it fits with who your. a lot of people aren't and sort of love their business and love their company but don't want to be out there -- >> i hate turning back to that,
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one great thing about social media, if you're not outgoing in person i know some shy people who are fantastic on facebook or twitter. they have that barrier. >> the question i would pose to you, do you feel that works with jewelry? social media? >> i think kit. with any consumer brand where i assume with the jewelry company your identity is part of the designs. communicate that on a new level. >> thank you. >> flattery never hurts. >> let's move on to the next question. this is about forming your question. >> in the past i have been advised by a cpa it was in my best interest to form my company as a llc versus an s-corporation. what do you feel is in my best interest as an entrepreneur? >> knowing nothing about her business i won't ask you to actually answer that question, but to help her understand the basis or at least where to go to
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answer it? >> i love leverage a lawyer.com. you can get flat fee services that's available in all 50 states. you can ask a lawyer what's most appropriate. i like the s-corporation for business reasons. >> go to aol small business type llc into the search. it lays out the benefits and pros and cons. >> she should check out her homework. >> let's move on to the next one. this is a question about how to find funding. >> with so many funding options out there, where do i start when i'm looking for funding for my small business. >> you know what's interesting, usually when we get this question i can't get money anywhere, where can i find it. she's saying there's so many
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places i can get money where do i start? >> i'm pulling out my wallet. i'll show you where you should go. i hate to say it but in this climate depending on how much money you need you don't want to carry a lot of debt. a credit card can be a great way to get a little infusion of cash. >> i host ad few panels about finding funding and there's lots of talks about angel investors and people out there who want to give money but it's primarily, get somebody in the audience saying i have a jewelry company or a furniture company i don't have an internet company or green tech company. where are the angel investors for something like that. >> you can network and google. there's a lot of angel investing networks, organizations out there. but i always say hold off on that for as long as possible. it's like getting married. i'm so surprised you suggested that. because that's how i started my business. >> wouldn't have said at it few
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years ago. you look at frankly people can't get loans as easily as they could. there's so much cash on the sidelines. depending on how much you're talking about. the other option is friends and family. >> agree. we did a neat story last last week about this company that got professional investors interested and then said i'm not interested we're going to go to friend and family and what they did they were a mom company they went to other moms. so i think that's a good way for her to find people who are interested in your industry, find customers who might have a little cash. >> it can be risky. safer route when i was a concert pianist i saved a huge portion of my tour fees and put it towards my skin care line.
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>> have another job. >> this is a big question about social media and making money. . it's not free because it takes a lot of your time. >> yeah. >> and you're not going to necessarily direct roi on that social media. >> right. >> i did -- i did a story a few years back, five ways to make money on twitter and it opened my eyes for twitter, and i think the couple real quick ways, one, coupons, offer coupons on twitter feed. you can't be blasting people with promotions all the time. if you have a conversational tone to your twitter and you say, hey, i have friends who run companies who do it, 30% off this week if you follow us or
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retweet. the great thing about twitter is the search. you can see what people are chattering. they do it all the time on twitter, venting whether it's looking for an apartment. we looked at a real estate firm that looked at people complaining about apartment searches said, hey, hit them up on twitter and said we've got great listing. the search is a great function and overlooked function i think on twitter. >> i think that's a great idea. >> i agree and disagree a little bit. you have to look at your brand, and if your brand is a discount brand it makes sense to send out coupons, if not, it could be dangerous. i look at social media as a trumpet or october copctopus fe. you're getting your message out little by little, branding, marketing message and hopefully they will come to your website, signed up for your news letter and you create a relationship with your potential clients' customers. that's how i like to look at social media. >> right. to your point of what you said if you just throw out a lot of
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promotions, people are not going to follow you, they're going to stop. it does need to be a conversation. >> it needs to be a customer service thing. it's about not losing customers that you know you get the best return. people might tweet at you and say i had a horrible experience, hit them up on twitter or facebook and offer a coupon or something like that. >> great idea. thank you for all of this advice. if you have a question for our experts go to our website. address is openforum.com/yourbusiness. there, hit the ask the show link to submit a question for our panel. again, opru and comments, address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. angela and rod had really helpful advise how to improve your business. now let's get great ideas from small business owners just like you. >> my great idea is on naming your business. remember a lot of businesses
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still spread by word of mouth. you need to pick a fphonetical name. people make the mistake and trying choose the shortest name as possible. pick one that you can easily spell. >> when you do not get payment for services up front you become an unsecured creditor, so don't be afraid to ask for payments up front and to be aggressive with your collections. >> my great idea for entrepreneurs is to encourage them to make sure they develop a strategic plan before they develop a business plan, and with the strategic plan, you will outline all of your organizations should function from an operational point and it's an internal document and the business plan is a plan to showcase to vinnesters. >> speaking of great ideas, as you all know i spent a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs. and in my conversations i often hear of some little thing that someone is doing that i think, wow, that is so easy, that's so
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smart, got to do that in my own business. here's an example. riva, a frequent guest, told me don't give your clients gifrtss around christmas. instead, send something around halloween or thanks gaving and they'll stand out. smart. simple. game changing. great idea. always looking for more to include in the show. do you have a fantastic. ? send it to us yourbusiness@msnbc.com. do you think your business is a good candidate for funding? you might want to check out our website of the week boefly.com, a free tool. enter basic information, details are matched with preferences of more than a thousand participating lenders. you'll get a report of possible lenders for your business, a breakdown of the strengths and
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weaknesses of your loan request, and some suggestions to improve your chances of getting capital. to learn more about today's show, click on our website. it's openforum.com/yourbusiness. inds a find all of the segments. don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. love getting your feedback. follow us on twitter. it's @msnbcyourbiz. sacramento, california, a small business 911 call from a woman who says her mother's house cleaning company needs a good scrubbing. >> looking forward to constructive criticism, as long as you're polite and nice, if you make me cry i'll be upset. >> we have riva conduct a small biz intervention. until then, i'm j.j. ramberg. remember, we make your business our business.
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this is my band from the 80's, looker. hair and mascara, a lethal combo. i'm jon haber of alto music. i've been around music my entire life. this is the first alto music i opened when i was 24. my business is all about getting music into people's hands. letting someone discover how great music is, is just an awesome thing. and the plum card from american express open helps me do that. i use it for as much inventory as i possibly can. from picks...to maracas... to drums... to dj equipment... you name it, i can buy it. and the savings that we get from the early pay discount on those purchases has given us money to reinvest back into our business and help quadruple the size of our floor space. and the more we expand, the more space we have for instruments and musicians to come play them. rock n roll will never die.

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